The Bottom Line
- The pretty photos really make you want to get in the kitchen to recreate these appetizing dishes.
- The book brings to mind a bright and sunny spring day.
- Certain elements feel corny and contrived.
- More tips and serving suggestions would have been welcome.
- Only available in Dutch, unfortunately.
- Food for the Soul
- By Anna de Leeuw, Marianne Luning and Barbara van Stek
- Published by Terra
- ISBN 978-90-8989-062-7
Guide Review - Cookbook Review: Food for the Soul
That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it may account for the inclusion of 'inspirational' sayings such as 'People who will give you their food will give you their heart' and the ubiquitous 'If life gives you lemons, make lemonade', which are littered throughout the book. There are also one or two too many pictures of girls in white dresses running through flower fields and smiling blondes cuddling fluffy farmyard animals... I'm on a high in my personal life right now, but even so, this is all a little too corny even for me at times.
I also bristled at the claim that the recipes are all 'original'. Recipes for hummous and gazpacho are hardly original. While I understand their inclusion (these two particular dishes make me feel happy too) the authors (or their publicists) shouldn't be so quick to claim originality when we all know that where it comes to food, there's very little that hasn't been done. Moreover, I'm not a fan of the way the book is structured. Chapter titles such as 'Silence' and 'Gratefulness' are not as useful as chapters arranged by occasion, course, season or ingredient.
The recipes are, for the most part, clear and easy to follow, but they sometimes assume that we will know what to do (e.g. they don't actually instruct the reader to grate the Parmesan cheese in the Asparagus Tart recipe) and there could be more tips, e.g. how to clean asparagus or what to serve something with instead of the rather general 'nice as a side dish'(the mango salsa recipe springs to mind). Added to that, the photos are sometimes a bit different than what is described in the recipe.
The subtitle of Food for the Soul translates as 'food that make you happy', but what exactly is 'happy food'? The recipes include comfort foods like Rhubarb-Ginger Tart and Frittata of Vitelotte-Noir Potatoes and fresh summery foods such as Home-Smoked Salmon with Beet Salsa, Nectarine-Gorgonzola Salad and Sweet Apple Sushi.
Small gripes aside, it is actually a nice cookbook. There's a good enough selection of recipes (60 or so) and while they may not be earth-shatteringly new and different, there are some nice ideas and some Dutch twists on classic dishes. Moreover, the look and feel is bright, sunny and cheerful and makes me think of a fragrantly flowery spring day. The food photos are inviting and more than do their job of enticing one into the kitchen. It is, indeed, hard to stay grumpy for too long paging through the pages of this lovely looking book, so if 'happy food' is what they're after, I'd say 'mission accomplished'.